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Get Started on the Right Foot: An Introduction to Accessory Feet

Emily Achondo

Picture this.

You recently purchased a brand new sewing machine from Meissner Sewing & Vacuum Centers.

You’re on a mission to improve and enhance your sewing, quilting and/or embroidery projects, so you’re equipping yourself with the best tools available to you, including a top-of the-line machine, the highest-quality notions and the very best accessories.

So, you take a trip to the Sacramento superstore. You walk through the doors, and you’re first stop is the wall of presser feet.

The wall is stocked with accessory feet for almost every make and model of BERNINA, Baby Lock, Janome and Brother machine.

Ruffler feet. Walking feet. Hemmer feet. Feet for embellishing. Feet for finishing. Zipper feet. Invisible zipper feet. Cording feet. Binding feet. Piping feet. Feet for quilting. Feet for straight stitching. Feet for embroidery. The list goes on, and, suddenly, you have no clue where to even begin on your journey.

The world of accessory feet is so expansive that even the most advanced sewist can get overwhelmed by the process of understanding and ultimately purchasing tools to improve your sewing experience and create a visibly superior product.

It is important that, as a sewist, quilter, embroiderer or crafter of any type, that you have at least a basic understanding of accessory feet because using the appropriate tools can enhance your projects and simplify your sewing process.

“The right accessory feet can make the job easier,” Angelina McKenna, Meissner instructor, said. “The right foot can make a world of difference.”

Foot Selection

As you work to grow your machine's toolbox, the first step in selecting the correct foot is to consider the project you are working on and what you wish to create.

“It can be a little overwhelming, so typically (you) have to find a sales person to help navigate the giant wall of feet,” Jennifer Campbell, sales associate in Sacramento, said. “And then it really depends on the project that’s at hand.”

For example, someone looking to complete a quilting project might consider a walking foot, quarter-inch seam foot and possibly a free-motion foot, Campbell said.

There are many factors to think about as you select your accessory, some of which include the type of fabric you will be using, the specific look you are trying to produce and even the machine you will be using. But ultimately, the foot you will select and use varies based on the outcome you desire.

Foot Categories

No matter which brand of machine you own, there is a foot available for practically every application within each of those brand categories. Under the brand categories there are several additional groupings of feet that serve different purposes. This might seem obvious.

Some feet will come standard with your machine at the time of purchase, and there are feet you can purchase separately that can be used for a technique or to produce a unique look.

For example, there are zipper feet for inserting zippers; there are hemming feet for creating a polished hem on garments; and there are cording feet for embellishing and finishing items like pillows and other projects.

"There's the ones, the basic one that come with your machine, like the zig-zag foot, straight-stitch foot, zipper foot, rolled hem foot (that) come standard with most machines," McKenna said. "But then things like a Teflon foot are an accessory foot that don't really come with a machine because it's for a specialized thing."

Narrowing down the long list of feet further, you can break the standard and the extra feet into smaller groupings based on the particular type of project.

“If you were trying to keep it as simple as possible, I would say quilting, heirloom, fashion, crafting and home dec,” Campbell said. “And everything would fall under the five, maybe in one or two of them.”

For each application there can also be several variations of the same foot, and generally each brand will name and categorize them differently.

“So you’ve got brand, and then in each brand there’s categories of machines," Campbell said. "Like BERNINA has red package, white package. Baby Lock has groups, so you have to find your machine, find your group and then find the foot. And them Janome has 9 mm, horizontal and oscillating, and Memory Craft. And then Brother is the same as Baby Lock.”

Foot Anatomy

This is where it might start to get more confusing.

Your foot selection generally depends on the specific project, and the results that each foot will produce for your project will vary based on the anatomy of the foot, including its size, markings and indentations.

The way that the foot itself is made determines how the foot will interact with your fabric and materials to create each individual look. Working with a foot that has the right anatomy will often result in a more professional look or an polished project. And, again, selecting a foot with the correct anatomy begins by looking at the project you are working on.

For example, the feet that you use for embroidery projects will be different than a foot that you will use for cording because of the anatomy of the feet.

"The cording foot, there's a groove on the bottom," PJ Lytton, sales associate in Sacramento, said. “A foot that you use for embroidery, it’s shaped in a way where it keeps the fabric down when your machine is going because your feed dogs are down."

Basically there are many ways to break down the topic of feet.

This subject goes beyond what can be explained simply in one place, but this overview is meant to provide general information that sets the basic foundation to expand your understanding.

This post is part of the "Get Started on the Right Foot" series. As part of this series we will be diving into these topics further, as well as the specific feet available, here on our blog, on our Facebook page and on our Instagram. Stay tuned!


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